One thing may be apparent above others, on a first reading of The Crystal Bird: we’re in the hands of someone who has considered her historical fiction carefully, and with no shortage of passionate investment. The story charts the adventures of two archaeologists who stumble across a fascinating find in the late nineties, one that leads them to interact with a sequestered civilization, the Ashais tribe. As a far more advanced society, the Ashais are in possession of secrets that could change the face of both medicine and warfare. Herein lies a moral dilemma, however: do the archaeologists honour the private, proudly-guarded traditions of the Ashais, or smuggle this chemical bounty back to the outside world? The innate lyricism of Drayton’s language is evident in her two poetry collections, Brown Doves and Brown Doves II: Passages. She brings this wordplay to bear in the composition of The Crystal Bird, and bolsters her attention to language with the development of a uniquely-visioned epic….A spellbinding account of what happens when two civilizations collide, mixed in with views from the present time and days of yore, Helen Drayton’s first novel is unmissable for those who like their historical fiction relevant, emotionally resonant, and page-turning
The Crystal Bird is a must-read…it encompasses mystery, romance, magic and the journey to self-discovery…Each chapter does such a fantastic job at enthralling its reader that one often forgets it is fiction and not fact…the book is magnificent not only because it is extremely well written, but because most of the writing is poetic, so there is no speed reading; one has to read for both content and language. It is about a clash of civilisations…contextualising of two different ways of life, two different ways of seeing the world and assessing values. There are serious moral problems addressed in the volume. It seems to teach on how the world could, in fact, be; if we would just give it a chance…It discusses new patterns of sovereignty, new value systems and a new respect for ancient principles of living…Drayton…continues to work using her unique methodology and linking together historical themes through her aesthetic theory. She provides what the historian likes to call ‘historical sketching’…this is profound in chapter ten where Drayton engages a discussion of early man and their development to civilisation…In the same chapter, and perhaps throughout the book, readers will often find biblical references as Drayton faces conflict between what is a Judeo-Christian ethic and the way of the new world…” Highlighted is the love story between two of the book’s characters—Allan and Jiena “in strong lyrical content and engaging language, as the relationship between the two, illustrates agape love…Drayton did a wonderful job of bridging the gap—connecting the past to the present.
This is a fantastic book that I just could not put down until I finished it. And then was sorry to see it end. It was very well researched and written. Could not recommend it highly enough.
There was a bit of James Hilton’s Lost Horizon to The Crystal Bird. The author has created a world ripe for further exploration, so it will be interesting to see if further books about the Ashais’ is forthcoming. The shifting from one time period to another was not distracting, but the similarity of some of the names required some backtracking. A good story with compelling characters, and a setting that is idyllic.
I loved the mythos and real history that were intermixed in the beginning of this book. It made for a very different read. What’s central is that the myth and real history comes together in what could be best described as a lost world. Yes, I did find it rather fascinating. Being someone who’s into archaeology I kept looking for more of the tidbits of where the Ashais came from which were numerous places in ancient times. On top of it there was a good story line. I’m not sure I’d want to come back from that place either.
Plenty of action throughout to keep the reader interested. Perfect amount of twists and turns you don’t expect. Pleasantly surprised at ending. A must read to the end. No skipping pages, reader will miss out. One more P. Passion driven to the end. Will look for more from this author.
Dr. Rolph Balgobin
A highly enjoyable read…beautiful writing brings scenes to life, weaving into and out of different lives and varied spaces to create the most elegant literary tapestry. The interplay of the elements is an authentic backdrop for the story told. I couldn’t put it down.
Helen Drayton leads us into the magical world of the Ashais, the people of the Land of the Crystal Bird, with vivid imagery. We get insights into their history which informs their philosophy, their way of being in harmony with their space. Is this the utopia we dream of? A captivating read.
If you are looking for a bodice-ripping historical romance, more fiction than fact, this is not the book for you. If, however, you like a great story and have an interest in the tribal history of the crucible of civilization, tempered with intrigue, fantasy and, yes, romance, then The Crystal Bird has enough of it all to fire your imagination,
Dr. Charles Cline
The author is an exciting and exceptionally skillful writer. The reader is propelled along an emotional journey that ranges from fear to love and from agony and despair, to pride in how a people can not only survive, but triumph over brutal and unjust circumstances. An enthralling read…
This tale is a beautiful tapestry of facts, fiction, fanciful magic, and sobering history, so vividly written that one can see, hear and smell what the characters are living. It has a magical quality
As a fan of fantasy novels I am intrigued by the world the author has created. Typically one is sent to a world reminiscent of medieval Europe or to a post-apocalyptic future. In this case the author has imagined and shared with the reader a wonderfully crafted world in existence alongside ours. Without trying to be dogmatic the author brings about the questions of ethics and morality and does so with her beautiful and often lyrical writing. This book is highly recommended if you are looking for historical fiction alongside a contemporary setting where one is faced with joy, pain, greed,love and triumph.
Great story and a true adventure! Would make a great adventure movie with exotic settings in Africa! Can’t wait for the sequel.
This is one of the most refreshing and unique stories I have ever read. The Crystal Bird is a blend of fast-paced adventure, treachery and touching and memorable romance. The author pulls you into the story, so I smelled the market place: “The marketplace hummed with vendors from the east and west plying their trades in ivory, animal skins, gold, silver, and humans. A variety of essences mixed with sweat, rotting animal flesh, vomit, excrement, and the slick, oily greed of merchants filled the air.” Then later in this intriguing and unpredictable story: “Suddenly the sky cracked into veins of light before the sonic boom of thunder’s roar ushered in tinselled drops that drenched everything.” I was lost in the mythical land of Ashaise. This is an enjoyable and excellent read.
What a fascinating story! Helen Drayton has a gift for storytelling. She weaves a compelling tale of a people who live in a believably magical land and have developed a way of life in complete harmony with all living creatures. The narrative is written with a disarming sensitivity to the feelings and emotions of the characters involved. It moves seamlessly from anger to surprise and bewilderment to the joy of discovery to greed to deceit and betrayal. It encompasses love and romance, jealousy and envy, fear, intrigue and other human feelings in between. In fact, it is a complete analysis of life, on a foundation of love and respect. The story takes off from a look at the slave trade in the fifteenth century that leads to the flight of an entire village; survivors of a raid by slavers. Proud Maasai warriors, they climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Near the top, they are absorbed into an other-worldly region where they meet similar peoples. They are welcomed and settle down. Fast forward to the year 1999. Two archeologists, exploring caves on Mount Kilimanjaro, searching for signs of ancient humanity, mysteriously end up in the same land. It is their introduction to a life in many ways more advanced than the one they had left behind that is the basis for this story.The writer skillfully keeps the narrative going at a fast pace all the time, while simultaneously introducing historical and geographical facts that must have required extensive research. The result is a fascinating and completely believable tale. I could not put this book down. Neither will you. —